The Fluffy Guide to Dating Profile Writing

Something I’ve noticed over the course of the last few years with profiles on dating and hook-up sites is that people are really horrible at creating a profile that sings. Part of this is because there’s no one that teaches you how or what to write, we don’t know whether we’re attracting partners or repelling bad matches, many people don’t read profiles and focus only on pictures. Most popular services, such as OKCupid, or PlentyofFish, do their best to give their user-base guidance in profile essays; most also provide some sort of gimmick (such as OKC’s mysterious algorithmic questions or PoF’s cissexist and heteronormative chemistry quizzes) to help users more easily make a “good” match, whatever that means.

What I’ve found, however, is that short of actual conversation with someone the profile essay really is the best way to get to understand them.

So I’m writing this guide; I’m going to talk about how to write your own profile, including formatting guidelines to create a brief but informative essay, using some psychology tricks along the way.

Remember while you’re reading this that many people, unfortunately trained over the years by bad profile writing, skip or only skim over profiles. There’s not much you can do to counteract this except for reading context clues from their messages whether or not they’ve read them. Because of this pictures are almost a necessity. While I do have some thoughts about appropriate picture use in profiles, I’m using my space here to talk about the essay specifically.

What’s a Profile for?

The first thing to remember is that your profile is meant not to attract prospective partners, but to screen out bad matches. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a hook-up, relationship, or even just friendships your profile should be something that’s easy for potential matches to read while also repelling those who don’t fit what you’re looking for.

Whichever service you’re using should be doing their best to connect you with as many people as possible. Many services are free with some sort of payment option that increases your profile’s visibility; while I haven’t really tried enough paid services to write any sort of review or suggestions, I’d say talk to your friends and maybe even customer service for the services you’re looking at. Likewise, each service usually has different tools that they use to encourage users to sign up; make sure that you’re making these tools work for you.

My main suggestions when picking a service:

  • Decide what you’re looking for. Friends? Hookups? Friends with benefits? Lovers? Romantic relationships? These are all different things; one of the main killers of peoples’ online searches is trying to create one profile for all of the things which then makes it a skittering mass that makes every thing harder to find. Be narrow and chances are anyone who would fit the other things you’re looking for will still find you.
  • Ensure that the service you’re using is appropriate for what you’re looking for. Dating sites are great! But most folks on them are not looking for hookups (and are annoyed by those that are).
    • Social networking sites, such as instagram, pintrest, twitter, fetlife, facebook, about.me, goodreads, linkdin, meetup, etc. are primarily aimed at allowing users to create or reinforce connections. While people do use these sites differently, primarily they’re meant for platonic connections. In some cases (facebook, fetlife, linkdin) people only make connections with folks they met before. Regardless, creating a profile on these sites to make friends is a great decision; using them to find romantic or sexual connection is inadvisable at best.
    • Dating websites, such as plentyoffish, eHarmony, match, geek2geek, etc. are primarily aimed at allowing users to find specifically romantic connections. Some of these services allow for folks who are polyamorous, many don’t. Some of these services allow for queer people, many don’t (or they only allow for monosexual queerness).
    • Hookup services (and forgive me because I know only primarily those intended for gay men), such as scruff, grindr, tindr, scissr(I wish I was kidding), squirt, adam4adam, etc. are primarily aimed at allowing users to find specifically sexual connections (typically transient, one-time deals, though not always). Usually these websites/apps are focused around some fundamental theme (e.g. scruff is focused on men with facial hair), though the extent to which that matters in finding a match differs by service.
    • Hybrid services such as OKCupid, growlr, recon, etc. are difficult to pin down; they’re part social networking, part dating, part hookup and it all depends on the culture of the site/app combined with your local area. That said, they’re also incredibly versatile and contain a userbase that is a lot wider and deeper than others.
  • How much does it cost? Most services have some sort of payment option (or worse, multiple “tiers” of options). Figuring out how much the service costs before it’s functional is important in choosing which service you go with.
    • Beware schemes, there are a ton of services out there that allow you to do little more than create a profile without paying. These services use the fact that they have thousands of profiles as a way to encourage people to create more profiles and also to pay but typically the only way to contact or respond to someone else’s contact is if you are both paid members. My rule of thumb? If I can’t send and receive at least ten messages a day then it’s likely a scheme.
  • Use your resources. Especially for heterosexual women, there is oftentimes an influx of messages from many people who don’t read profiles, ignore what they’ve read, or are absolutely certain they know you better than you know yourself. Because of this some services (such as OKC) have options that you can use to filter or hide messages and profiles based on specific criteria. Using these helps to combat against people (most often cisgender white men) who ignore the content of your profile regardless of what it is.
    • If you are ever receiving some sort of harassment on a service, there should be a way to block the harasser and hopefully report the profile. If there is not, consider switching services to one that allows you to better protect yourself in the future.

Crafting Your Essay

Don’t let the word “essay” scare you. So many people see it and go all wonky in the head with memories of public education and having to string sentences together with no real guidance and then being dinged for obscure rules they’d never formally been taught. Relax. Take a deep breath, I’m going to walk you through this.

The biggest thing to remember about your profile is that it is a combination of that first time someone sees you, your first ten one-on-one conversations, and your first date. This is good; these all take time and apart from crafting the profile it takes next to no time to get to know the gist of a person quickly. This does take some small bit of embracing in order to make your profile have as much utility as possible.

Here are the biggest things to keep in mind when writing your profile essay:

  • What are you looking for? In addition to helping you choose the appropriate service to use the answer here is important to note in your profile as directly as possible. If you’re not sure, it’s fine to say that too, but give some examples of things you’d be interested in. There’s nothing worse than reading through a cool profile only to find out that, hey, this person is monogamous, only interested in hookups, only into hierarchical poly, only wants to talk to dominant people looking for a slave, etc. only once you’ve started to talk to them a bit.
    • It’s my suggestion to state this early in your profile; after your introduction but relatively soon after. This statement is not about the specific things you’re looking for, but rather the type of connection. You’re specifically stating if you’re only looking for friendship, sexual connections, romantic connections, or a combination of one or more of those things.
  • Look at the tone of your writing. Are you super negative? Saccharine in positivity? It’s important to read over your profile and think “is this how I usually sound?” If you’re comfortable enough, ask a friend to read it and if it’s a good representation of you (and if you’re not comfortable enough that may be a sign that it’s not). Be specific for the feedback you’re looking for.
    • A note on sarcasm; generally sarcasm comes across very poorly in writing without a direct statement or signal afterwards that says “this is sarcastic” so it should be avoided. If you’re convinced that the profile absolutely would not represent who you are well without sarcasm then use it sparingly and effectively. Sarcasm, in general, gives the message that a person’s word is untrustworthy.
    • A note on esotericism; while you may think it makes your profile seem “weird” and “cool” when it is riddled with confusing or continuously ambivalent messages, all you’re really doing is saying to readers that you can’t be understood or necessarily trusted.
  • Be pithy. When describing yourself talk specifically about behaviors and actions; emotions and the reasons behind doing things are great topics of conversation in person over drinks/coffee/dinner/etc. because they’re great intimacy builders.
    • Avoid blandness. If you enjoy streaming media, for instance, talk about what you’re currently watching and something you go back to.
      • A good example: “I love watching netflix” is bland and communicates very little about you. “I love watching netflix, especially old horror movies and 90s TV” gives a person a wealth of information and great fodder for conversation without too much information. “I love netflix, here’s a list of my favorite shows:” borders on information overload and might be ignored.
  • Avoid judgement of yourself or others. Be descriptive in your writing. Good, hot, generous, gorgeous, kind, etc. are all value judgements; describe yourself with concrete facts instead.
    • Don’t ever describe yourself as “nice” because this suggests that you see “niceness” as an exceptional quality. In general, this is similar with other judgement words, but “nice” has more insidious and problematic roots. If you’d like to read more of my own words, check out my essay Why I Don’t Date “Nice Guys” (And Why You Shouldn’t Either).
  • Avoid Lists. There are a few reasons:
    • Psychologically when we read lists with the purpose of determining if criteria include us, human beings have a tendency ignore any items that do not apply if even one item does. This makes lists dangerous if you’re assuming people will exclude themselves.
    • While people tend to skip profiles, they tend to skip or skim lists even more. They tend to be “information overload.”
    • Prose tends to be more descriptive and gives context to the items that you’re listing.  “Bike riding” could mean all sorts of things; “I like to ride bikes on the trails near my house” gives greater context.
    • If you want to use lists: be sure to give them context and explain what you’re expecting readers to do with the items at the beginning of the list. “Here’s a list of my favorite musicians, if you want to let’s talk about one!” is a great context-builder. “I have a really eclectic taste in TV, to illustrate, here’s some things I always go back to:” can work as well. In general, you should have a reason for using a list and you should share that reason.

Essay Formatting

For those who want me to hold their hands a little longer, below is a set of suggestions for how to structure your essay. Take what works for you, throw out what doesn’t. I’ll include examples too!

Introduction Paragraph:

Two-to-three sentences:

  • Introduction
    • “Hi, my name is [X]…”
    • Introduce yourself and what folks can/should call you, followed by what you do for a living and/or your most salient personality trait(s) (whichever you’re more comfortable with).
  • Thesis
    • Why does this profile exist?
    • Stay pithy! Don’t be vague, but don’t wax poetic.
  • “Hi, my name is Fluffy, I’m a super introverted amab tumtum working three jobs and looking to build connections. I’m poly, and I’m looking for one or more romantic relationships with queer men or folks with a working penis.”
  • (Optional)
    • Explain how you use the tools of the service.
    • Some sites have “smiles” or “growls” or “likes” etc., and it’s super appropriate to say here “If I [use a smile/growl/like/etc] then that means…” or similar. Typically when a service uses these, it’s intended as a way to drive more activity to your profile.
    • [for Scruff] “If I’ve woofed at your profile it’s because I think we’d be a pretty good match; feel free to send me a message if you agree.”

Body Paragraph

No more than three sentences

  • Brief romantic or sexual interests
    • You should be taking this opportunity to talk about two things: Interests and Dealbreakers
    • Interests:
      • You don’t need to create a list here, but you should be descriptive. Why are you looking for whatever it is you’re looking for? What does that look like?
    • Dealbreakers:
      • Rather than creating a list of things that turn you off, why not just mention in one or two quick and direct sentences things that would be totally unacceptable.
  • “In a relationship I enjoy some pretty basic power exchange; I prefer for a partner to have an explicit sense of dominance over me because it makes me more comfortable with my everyday life. I love people regardless of their gender, but in a sexual relationship I do need partners that have a penis and I don’t top either. For me feelings of romance grow from regular sexual contact primarily initiated by my partners.”

Second Body Paragraph

No LESS than three sentences, no more than eight.

  • Physical Description
    • This is of yourself. Things like height and weight.
    • Avoid judgement language here. Just facts. “I’m tall” is a judgement. “I’m 6’7″ and taller than most people” is a fact. There’s some nuance here (especially around fatness and body type) so play around with it.
      • Note: As a trans person this is usually where I disclose my genitalia; do not assume that all trans people will disclose their trans status in a profile or even necessarily at all. I do so because even my romantic connections are primarily sexual and I recognize that, at least for my sexuality, the genitalia of prospective partners can be just as important as gender is to others.
  • Emotional Description
    • If you still have space, this is a great moment to write a very brief statement on how you process emotions. Are you stoic, intimate, introspective, are you introverted or extroverted, are you a deep thinker or do you prefer to live first and ask questions later?
    • If you’re familiar with the MBTI I’ve found that it is a great way to communicate complex explanations in a very compact sentence.
  • (Optional) Sexuality Description
    • Talk about what role (if any) sex has in the type of connection you’re looking to make. While this is fully optional, recognize that without guidance here you’re leaving yourself open to contacts from people you may otherwise consider unsuitable. This is a great way to ensure that others will notice any dealbreakers about you which is why I include it here.
  • “I’m 6’7” tall and fat; I guess most folks would call me a cub or a chub depending on their lexicon. In general you never know what color my hair’s going to be, but I always try to keep myself well-coiffed in public. While I do have a penis, because I’m transgender I rarely “use” it with partners. In general I’m an introspective and quiet thinker; my MBTI is INFP, and I feel it’s fairly accurate. Because of this I’m sometimes extremely shy and don’t always notice others’ signals if they’re not explicit. Like I said before, I prefer to be submissive to partners; I want both sex and everyday interaction to have the understanding that they’ll initiate it and communicate what they want, leaving it up to me to give it to them. If you’re looking for someone to take the reins and be super assertive I’m definitely not your match. Likewise, if you’re not super libidinous yourself we’re probably a bad match; like I said before, romance grows from repeated sex for me, and the more often the better.”

Final Paragraph

No more than five sentences

  • Likes/Dislikes
    • You’re not trying to describe everything you enjoy doing, eating, or consuming here. You’re trying to be representative while leaving some parts of you open to the imagination, giving the person fodder for conversation if they get this far into the profile.
      • The netflix example above is great at illustrating this.
    • If you have dietary or religious restrictions, this is a good place to state them.
      • Specifically I’m thinking of things like “I’m a vegetarian” or “can’t eat gluten” or “I don’t drink alcohol” or “I can’t be around smokers” or “can’t go out on Shabbat” or “can’t date non-Christians” or even “I am an atheist and can’t date religious people” for this. Any type of thing that might restrict who, when, or how you can date is a good thing to include here if you haven’t elsewhere in your profile.
    • Some services have a whole section in the profile for this; if so, that’s great! My suggestion is to build a list using the guidelines I provided above for lists, and to skip it in the main profile essay.
    • Avoid euphemisms (e.g. “netflix and chill” or “hang out”) and be explicit. If you like “hanging out” that means different things to many people; is there alcohol (or some other intoxicant) involved or no, what are you doing while “hanging out” and are there other people present etc.
  • Suggestion for a date
    • The very last or penultimate sentence in your profile should be a one-sentence script for what a first date or meet up might look like.
    • Talk about when in the connection it would happen, and maybe even give a suggestion as to where
    • If you give a person a script for how to ask you out on a date they are more likely to try asking you out on a date.
  • “Some of my favorite activities are watching old TV and playing videogames. Thanks to Netflix I’ve had the opportunity to go back and rewatch some of my favorites like Buffy and Angel, and thanks to an emulator I’ve been moving through the whole Shin Megami Tensei franchise (well, at least those on PS2). While I love eating out, I’ve got a lot of random allergies and also can’t eat gluten; why not let me pick where we’d eat? One of my favorite dates is to go out to Melt and talk about what makes me and the other person tick; if it’s going well and they ask me back to their place, I’m usually not opposed to some kissing or more if they ask. In general, I love messaging folks but get very easily bored if it doesn’t lead to meeting up in person sometime soon; if we’ve been talking for a good three or four messages back and forth with no eye to meeting in person I’m probably going to assume you’re not interested.”

This should create a profile that’s 10-12 sentences long; an easy read or an easy skim for those that do that. Folks that don’t read profiles in the first place won’t actually notice if it’s filled out or not; they’ll check your pictures and email you based on that, period.

For those who want to read my sample profile through:

Hi, my name is Fluffy, I’m a super introverted amab tumtum working three jobs and looking to build connections. I’m poly, and I’m looking for one or more romantic relationships with queer men or folks with a working penis.

In a relationship I enjoy some pretty basic power exchange; I prefer for a partner to have an explicit sense of dominance over me. I love people regardless of their gender, but in a sexual relationship I do need partners that have a penis and I don’t top either. For me feelings of romance grow from regular sexual contact primarily initiated by my partners.

I’m 6’7″ tall and fat; I guess most folks would call me a cub or a chub depending on their lexicon. In general you never know what color my hair’s going to be, but I always try to keep myself well-coiffed in public. While I do have a penis, because I’m transgender I rarely “use” it with partners. In general I’m an introspective and quiet thinker; my MBTI is INFP, and I feel it’s fairly accurate. Because of this I’m sometimes extremely shy and don’t always notice others’ signals if they’re not explicit. Like I said before, I prefer to be submissive to partners; I want both sex and everyday interaction to have the understanding that they’ll initiate it and communicate what they want, leaving it up to me to give it to them. If you’re looking for someone to take the reins and be super assertive I’m definitely not your match. Likewise, if you’re not super libidinous yourself we’re probably a bad match; like I said before, romance grows from repeated sex for me, and the more often the better.

Some of my favorite activities are watching old TV and playing videogames. Thanks to Netflix I’ve had the opportunity to go back and rewatch some of my favorites like Buffy and Angel, and thanks to an emulator I’ve been moving through the whole Shin Megami Tensei franchise (well, at least those on PS2). While I love eating out, I’ve got a lot of random allergies and also can’t eat gluten; why not let me pick where we’d eat? One of my favorite dates is to go out to Melt and talk about what makes me and the other person tick; if it’s going well and they ask me back to their place, I’m usually not opposed to some kissing or more if they ask. In general, I love messaging folks but get very easily bored if it doesn’t lead to meeting up in person sometime soon; if we’ve been talking for a good three or four messages back and forth with no eye to meeting in person I’m probably going to assume you’re not interested.

Conclusion

Hopefully this has helped you to relieve some tension and come up with a great profile essay! While I’ve spoken pretty definitively on this topic, remember that these are all suggestions and come from a very specific context (mine). Take what works for you, and modify (or ignore) what doesn’t.

Most of all, remember that no one really knows how or why any of this works. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take some chances; maybe that’s all you need to find exactly what you’re looking for? Notice that I didn’t talk about spelling, grammar, or whatever other things other people care about; you represent you in the best way you can. While I might care about a potential partner’s misuse of they’re/their/there, Yffulf doesn’t even notice, let alone care, about the error. The same goes for text-speak or dialects. If it’s a good representation of who you are? Roll with it.

And have fun! If online dating isn’t fun, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Good luck!

Advertisements

About Michael Robinson

An eclectic person living in a world rife with binaries, opposition, anger and pain and trying to find the spectra, love, happiness and catharsis within.
This entry was posted in Educational, Essay, Orientation, queer, QUILTBAG, Sex and Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s